Excerpted From: Tehani M. Louis-Perkins, Mai Kia Manawa Mau Loa Aku: Knaka Maoli Governance Through Nearshore Fisheries Management in Mo'omomi, 45 University of Hawaii Law Review 185 (Winter 2022) (366 Footnotes) (Full Document)


TehaniLouisPerkins'ina serves as a central organizing concept for Knaka Maoli narratives. This term in itself “evoke[s] powerful sensory and emotional connections [for Knaka Maoli] as they associate[] certain 'ina with particular activities ..., family members or relationships ..., events,” or genealogical histories. Maoli scholar and Hawaiian Language Professor Katrina-Ann R. Kap'anaokalokeola Nkoa Oliveira writes:

The fact that Knaka had a very close connection to the 'ina in ancestral times is evident in our ' lelo makuahine. Terms such as 'ina, aloha 'ina (love for the land), and kua'ina (the people who carry the burden of land on their backs) all reflect an undeniable bond between 'ina and knaka. Knaka knew their places so intimately that they were able to describe their kuliwi apart from other places.

The root of the word 'ina is the word “ai” which means “to eat.” 'Ai as the core term emphasizes that Knaka not only live off the land but also eat its resources, and this is a concept that still holds true today. Knaka Maoli do not distinguish themselves from the land in the way that westerners do. Instead, Knaka Maoli emphasize the often quoted mantra of “I am this land, and this land is me.”

For Knaka Maoli, the concepts of “mlama 'ina” and “aloha 'ina” encompass the deep emotional understanding of the word 'ina. “Mlama 'ina” is seen as caring for the land while “aloha 'ina” is a feeling of aloha or love for the land. These terms emphasize the intergenerational relationship of 'ina to knaka that extend back to time immemorial. To mlama 'ina does not mean only to care for the land; it also means to care for the freshwater, estuaries, air, oceans, and more.

Lawai'a, fisher people, are the protectors and key embodiment of mlama 'ina in the ocean. Traditionally, to Knaka Maoli, lawai'a are people of extensive knowledge and are highly honored. Lawai'a knowledge is passed down typically from elders within their respective community. Those who inherit this knowledge have a significant responsibility to continue its intergenerational transfer. This responsibility includes understanding and teaching methods of capture, seasonal spawning, fish habitats, and schooling seasonalities. Lawai'a are especially revered for having particular knowledge associated with “kilo” or observation. Through kilo, lawai'a quantify their inherited experiences, knowledge, and observations into effective fisheries management.

Fisheries management in Hawai'i has strayed from reliance on lawai'a. Up until recently, the State of Hawai'i did not utilize knowledge held by lawai'a to effectuate proper fisheries management. Today, the State of Hawai'i Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR) is responsible for finding solutions to manage Hawai'i's fish stocks. Despite its best intentions and efforts, the State has yet to implement an effective strategy to do so. Various studies have shown a massive decline in Hawai'i's fish populations. Observations by local fishers and ocean users confirm the same downward trend. A 2003 study that involved hundreds of interviews with Knaka Maoli elders found that after the 1990s, they observed changes in “the quality of the fisheries, and the declining abundance of fish--noting that [there] were significant declines in almost all areas of the fisheries, from streams to nearshore and the deep sea.” Unfortunately, even with modern rules and regulations, Hawai'i has not successfully monitored or implemented an effective management plan that ensures the perpetuity of fisheries into the future. By focusing on the current state laws and Maoli resource management, this article demonstrates the legal arguments that communities and advocates can make to protect their subsistence fisheries.

Part II of this article examines the significance of Hawai'i's nearshore fisheries. It discusses the current status of Hawai'i's fisheries and the laws that regulate them. This section also explores communal management practices prior to westerners stumbling onto the shores of Hawai'i in 1778. It then articulates the cultural significance of lawai'a and fisheries to ancient Knaka Maoli. Finally, this section highlights the impact of westernization upon Hawai'i's fisheries and Knaka Maoli culture and laws.

Part III puts the regulation of fisheries in the modern context by illustrating the importance of a Community-Based Subsistence Fishing Area (“CBSFA”) in community governance. It assesses the Mo'omomi CBSFA on Moloka'i as a model and highlights the issues that the Mo'omomi CBSFA has historically faced. The CBSFA elegantly puts forth a management strategy that utilizes scientific data, Maoli fisheries management techniques, place-based knowledge, and State fishing regulations. Despite this, the Mo'omomi CBSFA still has not been approved by DLNR and its governing body. This article argues that DLNR's delay and refusal to designate the CBSFA is a breach of its constitutional obligation to affirmatively protect traditional and customary Native Hawaiian rights and the fisheries for future generations.

[. . .]

Lawai'a are the protectors and key embodiment of mlama 'ina in the ocean. The knowledge of the lawai'a is crucial for a community to achieve governance over its resources. The Mo'omomi CBSFA reflects the repository of knowledge that the lawai'a of Mo'omomi have passed down over generations. The Mo'omomi CBSFA illustrates the ideal hybrid management style that centralizes governance in the community and combines traditional knowledge with modern science and management techniques. The Mo'omomi CBSFA proposed rules should be adopted. The CBSFA process is not a popularity contest. Hawai'i Revised Statutes section 188-22.6 and the applicable Chapter 91 procedures allow communities to engage in the rulemaking process and protect resources.

DLNR's delay and refusal to designate the CBSFA breaches its constitutional obligation to affirmatively protect traditional and customary Hawaiian rights and the fisheries for future generations. Retroactive management is ineffective when a community relies so heavily on a particular fishery for subsistence. The purpose of management is to plan ahead to ensure that the resource is still around for generations to come. The opportunity to effectively co-manage the Mo'omomi fishery is there, and it is just a matter of DLNR taking the necessary steps to do its job and fulfill the State's constitutional mandates.

In the Hawaiian language, “mai kia manawa mau loa aku” translates to “from now to eternity” and “from now on and forever.” Mary Kawena Pukui & Samuel H. Elbert, Hawaiian Dictionary 241 (rev. and enlarged ed. 1986) [hereinafter Hawaiian Dictionary].

J.D., University of Hawai'i William S. Richardson School of Law, Class of 2022.